Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walking A Dinosaur

While out of town last week, I went for my usual morning walk. It was a beautiful, cool morning in Kentucky and irises and peonies were blooming along the sidewalk. School buses were making their scheduled stops along my route, slowing everyone down on their drive to work. I was distracted, but energized by the new sights and unfamiliar surroundings.

On my return, I approached a mini-van pulled alongside the sidewalk. I slowed my pace and watched a mom helping her child get out of the car. He looked to be about four - maybe he was going to his sitter for the day. His hair was tussled and he was still wearing his bright yellow pajamas covered with big smiley faces. He reminded me of my son when he was four and how he loved wearing his Bert and Ernie jammies. This little guy was happily struggling with something that he was trying to get out of the car. As I got closer, he had what seemed to be a rope in his hands and I watched him pull and tug to get his possession onto the sidewalk. Finally his mom reached in and with a little help, out came his very own, large dinosaur-on-wheels. Evidently, the rope was the dinosaur's leash. As this little guy walked into the house, pulling his pet behind him, he would constantly turn back to make sure his dinosaur was obediently following. In they rolled, happily attached to each other for the day.

It was one of those scenes where your mind snaps a picture and you can't let it go. A painter friend recently told me it is called "artist eyes." Whatever it is, it dances around in your mind and you return home to paint it - or write about it. And as you mentally return to look at your mind's picture, you begin to think about what you have observed and then you mix it with what you know and it transforms into something meaningful to you - maybe even useful.

I pulled out the encyclopedia just to review dinosaurs and believe this particular pet was a Tyrannosaurus rex - you know, like Barney. The only one I can always remember is the Stegosaurus because he has the large "flower petals" down his back. To me, the others are not so distinct from each other - just big and a little scary and thankfully now extinct. But even though they lived about 150 million years ago, they still fascinate us. I love the photograph of my children standing in front of a dinosaur skeleton at the Smithsonian Institute, wide-eyed and truly impressed by the size of these prehistoric creatures.

This mental snapshot makes me smile every time I revisit the scene - a mommy and a happy child with a toy on a beautiful morning - that is basically what I saw. But I don't really know if he was a happy child - he just looked happy in those bright, smiley face pajamas. Maybe his parents were divorced and he was lonely and confused, clinging desperately to something he could control - his pet dinosaur. But the snapshot also sobers me. The thought of pulling a dinosaur on a leash offers another picture of pulling a heavy and cumbersome load. Some loads are small and we can mask them by wearing our bright happy faces. Some burdens are big and they are harder to handle, but we insist on tethering them to us, dragging them around. Oh, sure, they get in the way. Oftentimes they become the "elephant in the room" that no one knows exactly how to handle - even ourselves. So we pull it behind us, look over our shoulder to make sure it is with us. We have trouble getting around because of it. And it prevents us from moving forward in life. We cannot let it go.

Face it. Dinosaurs are extinct. Finished. They no longer have any power or presence in our world today. We don't have to face the return of Jurassic Park. We can rest fully at night, trusting that no dinosaur will step on our house and crush us while we sleep. But those personal dinosaurs are another matter. Our mind convinces us they exist and we must carry them around. What troubles you? Financial stress? A broken relationship? A career change? Loss of a loved one? Illness? Fear? A sordid past? Running out of smiley faced pajamas to wear? Is the leash of your dinosaur getting wrapped around your ankles and dragging you down? Or maybe you think you have conquered all your dinosaurs and pride - the scariest of all - has stepped in and made you your own god.

Unleash it. Let it go and start today to be the person God created you to be. Take the initiative to start with a fresh approach, looking ahead and not back. Be honest with yourself about who you really are in God's eyes. It is hard work. It is freedom.